The American League East is like a big family that does nothing but fight. Each team knows the other’s strengths and weaknesses. The Yankees will play the Orioles differently than they would the Blue Jays. Players come and go year after year, but scouting reports and interleague play usually take care of any unfamiliarity. This year, though, there is one enigma in the AL East: Masahiro Tanaka.
There is plenty of tape on Tanaka. It just happens to be from a different league, with a different ball. As far as getting a look at him in spring training? Weather has caused two of Tanaka’s appearances to become bullpen sessions. This cuts even more of the time division foes have to figure him out before seeing him on the mound in a real game.
The Orioles were able to steal a few looks at him, and manager Buck Showalter was very impressed. “He’s outstanding. He’s going to be a big difference-maker…There’s not a lot of secrets in the AL East. But that is a little bit of mystery.”
From what we have seen of Tanaka this spring has been very impressive. He owns a 1.93 ERA in 9.1 innings, with 10 strikeouts. His pitches have translated well, and it looks like he will carry this momentum right into the season.
There is talk of making Tanaka the 4th starter in order to separate him from Hiroki Kuroda. If so, he will almost certainly be the best 4th starter in baseball. Even if he ends up as the 3, he should dominate. April will be a magical time of year for Yankee fans. Both they and rival teams will be looking at Tanaka for the first time.